Yes, we are aware of the irony of featuring exhibitions taking place in the land of Brexit, but we are Europeans and we will always love the British capital for what it’s worth, especially for its rebellious and creative sense of fashion. Take, for example, the beautiful month of May: not only is Dior the subject of a V&A show (one apparently to die for!) but also Mary Quant, the fashion icon who gave the miniskirt its name. This May also the “Mrs and Mr Bateman” pop-up installation is on show in Notting Hill, soon to be followed by the 5th edition of Photo London at Somerset House. Reason enough for us to dive into the alluring world of vintage fashion & photography.
Quant and Dior are obviously poles apart in their aesthetics, their approach and how they perceived fashion, yet they share the indisputable status of being extremely important influencers of fashion and their times. To start with the French fashion designer, the hysteria surrounding the show “Christian Dior. Designer of Dreams” may seem puzzling but as the exhibition title says, the show is about (unattainable) dreams.
Or to quote the master himself:
Deep in every heart slumbers a dream, and the couturier knows it: every woman is a princess.
The exhibition has been extended “by popular demand”, but as the British say, there’s a fat chance of getting a ticket or in other words “the ship has sailed”. As we’ve heard from a well-connected publisher of a lifestyle magazine who is planning a trip to London, the concierge of the hotel she’ll be staying in offered her tickets to the Dior exhibition for the humble price of £300.
Each, that is. Needless to say, she declined the friendly offer.
As in real life, only a small percentage will ever be in the position of wearing a real haute couture dress, especially one from Christian Dior, but fear not, we have you covered and can present you some of the most iconic installation views of the show.
And yes, they are worthy of dreams!
In contrast to Christian Dior, who famously longed to “save women from nature”, Mary Quant quite shamelessly celebrated vulgarity:
Good taste is death. Vulgarity is life.
There is a lot of discussion about who can be credited with the invention of the miniskirt; no matter whether it was Courrège or Mary Quant, one thing is certain: the movement started in Swinging London, originating with the girls on Kings Road, or as Quant called them, the Chelsea Girls. Quant’s shop Bazaar, which she opened in 1955 in Chelsea, played a big role in this development as her youthful designs, like small plastic collars, square patterns and bright colours were especially popular with young women.
She also made hot pants popular in the 60s, but it is also the refreshingly free and feminist attitude that she delivered with her clothes that make her a fashion and even feminist icon to this day:
The fashionable woman wears clothes. The clothes don’t wear her.
Ernestine Carter, who in the 50s and 60s was a very influential fashion journalist, once said about Quant:
It is given to a fortunate few to be born at the right time, in the right place, with the right talents. In recent fashion, there are three: Chanel, Dior and Mary Quant.
Not that we would need a reason, but this beautiful statement connects both designers not only intellectually in their time, but now also in today´s reality for all to see (for those who have a ticket, that is) at the Victoria and Albert Museum, or here!
MRS AND MR BATEMAN
But it wouldn’t be London if there weren´t other possibilities to indulge in vintage fashion. One concerns the second iteration of the annual walk-in installation “Mrs and Mr Bateman” in Notting Hill. What makes this immersive interior, art, fashion & storytelling experience so special is the obsession that its three creators share for their trade.
Vintage dealer and creative director Clemmie Myers started collecting vintage clothes and signature pieces as a teenager, while for the artist Selena Beaudry, painting was clearly her first love – in view of the “slashes, smears and blobs” she describes as forming the language of her paintings, it seems logical that destroying her canvases by cutting them up ultimately leads to their final, vivid form.
And finally, interior designer Natalie Tredgett’s description of the chair she designed and built for Vincent, the illegitimate son of the imaginary couple Mrs and Mr Bateman, is like entering a psychedelic dream exploding with colour:
With his chair, I surrounded Vincent with velvet gothic panels to show the intensity of his character and the privilege of his background. The red and purple rug lies in contrast to the blue velvet walls. A beautiful emerald green rug is piled in the corner with disregard. The golden wall lights shades have been slashed with black paint showing his desperate need to separate himself from his present feeling of anguish.
We interviewed all three of the “Mrs and Mr Bateman” creators earlier this week on Coeur et art
And last but not least, the 5th edition of Photo London will be starting on the 16th of May at Somerset House.
We have picked some fine fashion photographs that will be on display as a sneak peek for you!
We will be reporting more on Photo London in an upcoming feature.
Header Photo: Mary Quant, photograph by Ronald Dumont, c.1967. © Ronald Dumont/Stringer/Getty Images
Author: Esther Harrison